Cardinal says he did not have all facts in dispute with governor

It’s just like Francis to shoot first and ask questions later. D’oh!

Cardinal Francis George said Sunday that he did not have all the facts when the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement decrying Gov. Pat Quinn for his involvement with an abortion-rights organization that, it turned out, plans to give an award to an advocate for rape victims.

George, leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Chicago, and the five other bishops who oversee the church in Illinois released the statement Wednesday criticizing Quinn, a Catholic, for his plans to present an award Nov. 17 at the annual luncheon for the Personal PAC. The statement said Quinn had “gone beyond a political alignment with those supporting the legal right to kill children in their mothers’ wombs to rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work.”

It was the most recent volley in a dispute between the church and the governor over abortion. But the bishops were criticized when rape victim Jennie Goodman came forward as the recipient of the award presented by Quinn.

“I deeply regret that,” George said Sunday afternoon, en route to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, where he was scheduled to present awards to parishioners for their dedication to ministries. “A rape victim demands all the respect and sympathy that anybody can give.”

He said that the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which advises the church on policy, did not inform the bishops about Goodman or her personal story of sexual assault.

“I first heard of Ms. Goodman only after we had crafted the statement (and) published it. Then, all of a sudden she comes forward. All of a sudden, she was there, and that wasn’t part of the story as we did it,” George said.

Bob Gilligan, executive director of the conference, could not be reached Sunday.

Quinn defended his decision to honor Goodman, whom he described as “a strong advocate of helping rape victims all over our state and the country.”

Goodman appeared in TV advertisements last fall that targeted Quinn’s Republican opponent and were paid for by Personal PAC.

But the message contained in the statement, also signed by Catholic bishops from Peoria, Springfield, Rockford, Belleville and Joliet, was meant only for the governor, George said.

“We do not regret reminding the governor that as long as he claims to be Catholic, there are inconsistencies in what he is doing and what the church says is the moral standard for all of us who claim to be Catholic,” George said. “It is the governor we are talking to, not her.”

George said the bishops felt compelled to protest what appears to be a new level of collaboration between Quinn and the political action committee, which describes itself as working to elect candidates who support abortion rights.

“It presented itself to us with news that he was not only pro-choice in his platform — we knew that — nor that he had been receiving help from pro-choice organizations like the PAC,” George said. “The story, from our point of view, was simply that … the governor had crossed a line here in identifying himself with the killing of unborn children.”

George said the bishops might have acted differently had they known Goodman would receive the award.

“I am not sure what we would have done,” he said. “If we had known this, that it was in fact an award to a rape victim, I think our own conversation would have been very different.”

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